Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 5/16/16 7:06 pm
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When I first became a Doctor Who fan and heard about the Virgin New Adventures I was warned that they were for more of an adult audience. I was also warned that the writers were not constrained by subject matter when they wrote a novel for the range. I expected things of newer novelists but not Ben Aaronovitch. Ben Aaronovitch is the writer of my favorite Doctor Who story, Remembrance of the Daleks, and the pretty good story Battlefield which were both not very adult, but had some darker underlying themes. His first novel is Transit which had an idea that was originally going to be used for TV. That idea was of an intergalactic subway system that travels to all planets of the solar system and has been corrupted by an evil computer. The idea is a really sound one as it feels really imaginative and almost like something Douglas Adams would come up with if there was more comedy in the story.
Instead of a comedy romp however, Transit decides to go in the dark and gritty route with a dystopian society very similar to Andrew Cartmel’s future in Cat’s Cradle: Warhead. That novel is also very similar to Transit in terms of plot as it sees the Doctor overthrow an evil government organization. In this case it is a computer called Fred (Yeah no influence of Douglas Adams in the novel whatsoever) who has some files pertaining to time travel developed by new character Kadiatu Lethebridge-Stewart who is the illegitimate great-granddaughter of Brigadier Lethebridge-Stewart. Kadiatu is a great character who was harden despite a few problems I will get into later on in this review. She honestly feels like a real person and deserves the name of Lethebridge-Stewart for the most part even if her origins are shaky. I also like the genetic mutations that were forced on her to fight in a war with the Ice Warriors and to create time travel. Aaronovitch really does her relationship with the Doctor well by making her the companion of the story. They especially get some great dialogue with each other. Aaronovitch also makes the Doctor a legend on Earth which is a really good idea, even going so far as to make the story Battlefield turned into an opera in a Wagnerian style. We also see the return of the house on Allen Road and the mysterious silver cat which isn’t really a positive as it has no bearing on the plot.
If you notice, I’ve been trying to keep on the positive side of things for the first sections of the review as this book has some great bits in it. However the book is one of the more controversial novels in the Virgin New Adventures range with many saying that it is the worst thing ever and others saying it is one of the best books ever. I said it in the introduction saying that novelists didn’t have as many constraints on content and Aaronovitch uses this to the full. The novel goes for gritty cyberpunk but adds in vivid descriptions of prostitution and even has a character ejaculate into another’s mouth. The sex levels in the novel are off the charts and I really don’t like it. Now this may be seem a bit hypocritical as I was fine with the romance in Love and War, but the problems with the sex is the presentation. In Love and War, it was all about the emotion of the characters and was really vague on the details. Here it is all the raw physical action and gritty realism. It feels like Aaronovitch is trying to work through some sort of issue here. The Doctor also acts out of character by getting himself drunk with Kadiatu at one point which is an unintentionally funny scene. There is also some obscene language in the novel which goes so far as to use the word f*** ten times (Yes I censored the word, just take a guess on what it is). I don’t mind cursing but the amount of vulgarity in the novel was just ridiculous.
These aren’t the only problems with the novel as Aaronovitch writes at a snail’s pace with extremely long chapters that turn a nights reading into a slog to get through. He also doesn’t have much of a story once the climax hits and everything gets really confusing. The plot gets further lost as some sequences of events are told out of order. He also has a problem with the characterization which is odd considering how strong and memorable the television characters are. Here the supporting characters are one-note and really could be switched out with each other as their impact could be done by one character.
He also doesn’t really know how to write for the character of Bernice Summerfield as she is extremely mean in the novel. Yes she wasn’t the nicest in Love and War, but it was all sarcasm and flippancy there. Here she is violent to the point of slapping a child to get answers. She almost feels like she would be better if she was switched out for Ace, even if for the story she is possessed by Fred. It almost feels like what happened to Steven in Galaxy Four where he got all Barbara’s lines happened here. It gets a little more bearable near the end but not by much. So yeah this really wasn’t the novel for me and just is an unbearable read.